Coworking post-Covid

One of the big trends within the office sector in recent years has been coworking and offering ‘space as a service’ models to tenants, as a direct competitor to traditional lease models. SAAS lease models allow for smaller businesses to engage in short-term agreements without committing to unnecessarily large premises or having to making unwanted costs on furniture, line rental and other amenities.

Working culture has changed within the past decade, with a more dynamic and agile style being preferred over the ‘9 to 5’, perfunctory way that offices have been previously utilised. Owners of these coworking spaces – WeWork, Regus, etc. – have proven that younger workers prefer a more relaxed and even more liveable area to work in, by seeing these areas increasing in propularity. Amenities on request – often through an app – is so much more user-friendly than hoping a landlord picks their phone up or sees an email to remember to ask the cleaner to increase their frequency, for example.

Although technology helped to sell coworking spaces to the masses a few years ago, will the glorified hotdesking situation still hold its shine after a global pandemic totally changed how humans interact and behave in public areas? Would you want to sit in the same chair and at the same desk that a total stranger spent the day before at? Wouldn’t people rather work from home like they have been successfully doing for the past six months? Or does the market need something midway: short-term leases of permanent spaces, with fun add-ons.

Currently, the question of whether a property owner can continue to rent their space out – coworking or not – is based on social distancing. Can your occupiers move around an area without contaminating their colleagues or fellow occupants? As our executive director Roger Watts said, many small properties in central London will be unsuitable for office space now. Short of redesigning for a different sector, how can these spaces make a profit?

As it was at the start of the coworking purple patch, the key is technology. Redesigning the apps in which to control capacity with social distancing in mind and using their data collection features to ensure track-and-trace efforts are not wasted are just two ways to combat empty space and soften that hit in profits.

If landlords and property owners do not move with the times and adopt technology to help others, their business will suffer – potentially needing redesign or even diversification within their various sectors, something that is impossible in many industries.

If you’d like to discuss this article in more detail, please email Dan at daniel.roe@tridentbc.com, or call him on 07917 037425.

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